Athanasius, it seems, is in good company. But his argument is not simply a correspondence between the historical existence of a man named Jesus and his conclusions, there is a necessary link to them. His conclusions are valid because of Jesus’s historical existence and what he made known about himself. Not only that, it becomes a confirmation of the entire biblical narrative. Athanasius realizes this, saying, “[…] it is necessary for us, in speaking of the manifestation of the Saviour to us, to speak also of the origin of mankind, that you may know that our case was the reason of His coming down, and our transgression called out the loving-kindness of the Word, so that He both hastened to us, and the Lord appeared among men.”(1) The incarnation, which the patriarch refers to as “the manifestation”, is a direct historical proof of the fall of man. It’s premise is simple, if the Fall had not occurred, Christ would not have come. This has profound significance, not merely for theology, but for assumptions about human history and nature. If Athanasius is correct in his premises, there is no meaningful argument that can be brought to respond as a refutation. The sum total of human experience must be brought to the feet of the Man, Christ Jesus for reconciliation.(2)
The Incarnation is an important historical text that gives the modern Christian an insight into a religion and beliefs that are not merely conjecture or myth, but reality, a genuine historical reality. The ancient patriarch of the faith gives his readers, both past and present, a carefully thought out, deeply reflective interpretation of the reality of the historical person and the necessary implications of his life. The patriarch finds himself unable to come to any other conclusions if he does not take the text of the Hebrew and Christian scripture as testimony to facts, as evidence of the truth. The conclusions that he comes to flow from the start of his thesis. In the final analysis against false assumptions about the nature of the world and it’s origins, to false assumptions about the nature of man, Athanasius cannot help but take it of Jesus, the Word made flesh, that, “[…] He has yet been manifested to us in a human body for our salvation, out of the lovingkindness and goodness of His Own Father.”(3) The thesis that Athanasius puts forward in the Incarnation is that creation, the fall, and the redemption of those who place their trust in Christ is a public demonstration of the power and love of God.
1. Athanasius (1903), p. 48
2. Ibid, p. 60-61
3. Ibid, p. 42-3